Senior Apartments receive energy audit | SierraSun.com

Senior Apartments receive energy audit

Paul Raymore, Sierra Sun
Paul Raymore, Sierra SunSenior Apartments resident Barbara Patterson inspects the weather stripping around her storm door with Truckee Donner Public Utility District's Scott Terrell.
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Responding to concerns raised at a recent Truckee Donner Public Utility District board meeting by a number of seniors living in the Truckee Senior Apartments, utility district staff have completed an initial energy efficiency audit of the apartments.

At the board meeting on Feb. 18, approximately 20 residents of the Truckee Senior Apartments expressed their concern over their extremely high electricity bills, prompting the board to direct TDPUD staff to conduct an investigation into the matter.

Over the past couple of weeks, Scott Terrell, the director of planning for the TDPUD and an energy efficiency expert, walked through many of the 60 apartments – including most of those that the TDPUD had received complaints about – and identified a number of improvements that could be made to help reduce the electric heating bills that many of the residents face.

Some of the recommendations that Terrell made at the most recent TDPUD board meeting on Wednesday included:

— Installing permanent storm windows that could be opened and closed as necessary rather than having to be taken down in the summertime.

— Retrofitting the existing electric heaters with thermostats to allow the seniors to heat their apartments to a designated temperature without having to manually regulate the heat by turning the heaters on and off.

— Adding an extra eight inches of insulation in the ceilings of the apartments to bring them up to current standards.

— Installing storm doors inside of existing exterior doors, or replacing the existing doors with newer, more energy efficient models.

— Reinstalling weather-stripping around existing doors and windows to seal out leaks.

— Installing low-flow showerheads and highly efficient florescent lighting in apartments that lack them.

While Terrell found a number of improvements that could be made to help reduce the energy bills of the Senior Apartments’ residents, he was pleased to find that at least one apartment had already been upgraded through a Nevada County program that provides low-income residents with help in reducing their energy bills.

“What I really like about what [they] did – and I was pleasantly surprised to find something really really worthwhile – was they put in these storm windows that aren’t exterior to the frame, meaning that they don’t attach [to the exterior of the window frame],” Terrell said. “These are nice because they are interior to the frame, and because they’re slidable … what you can do in the summer is keep them open, and what you can do in the winter is close them.”

According to Terrell, the management at the Senior Apartments did install storm windows in all of the apartments a number of years ago in an attempt to keep the apartments warmer; however, the old-style storm windows that were installed obstructed the residents’ views and could not be opened without taking them down. Terrell believes that many of them never got put back up after they were taken down.

Site Manager Tom Ballou said that storm windows were available to all of the residents who wanted them each winter but that not all of the seniors had requested them.

He emphasized that the management at the Senior Apartments is aware of the issues faced by many of the residents there. In speaking about the buildings themselves he said: “We’ve been pretty proactive in understanding that a) it’s cold, b) it’s old, and c) it’s electric.”

Residents of the Senior Apartments were happy to see Terrell and hope to see his recommendations implemented.

“I think they [the PUD] have been great,” said Lucy Greene, a resident of one of the units. “I think the best thing I ever did was come down here with 20 of our seniors and try to get some help from them. They’ve been real cooperative and he [Terrell] has come down and checked almost all of the apartments to see what could be done. I can’t say any more, it’s just been great. I’m really happy with them.”

TDPUD directors agreed that taking care of some of the issues at the Senior Apartments should be a priority for the district and directed the TDPUD staff to investigate ways to help implement some of Terrell’s recommendations.